The Great Kashmiri Chutzpah!

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Let us get one thing straight. This article is about you and me, about us. This is not about the people in positions of power, it’s about the common ‘Kaeshur’ who is only concerned with leading a normal life without any delusions of grandeur. I do not claim to understand the mind-set and thinking of every Kashmiri, but having grown up as one does offer me a glimpse into the collective psyche. A lot of articles have been written about what the government did, what the government didn’t and what the government should have done. Let that be the government’s prerogative. In a book I read recently, the author describes a utopian society where only people with low intellect become politicians. While the latter holds true even today, the former is sadly just a dream. 

Today, I want to talk about what we, as responsible members of the society, should and shouldn’t do. We Kashmiris are a peculiar species. We have a super power, an ability that no one else has. You see, we have the power to magnify and highlight every little sliver of injustice meted out to us, perceived or not. With the power of a thousand electron microscopes, we obsess over how we have been wronged in great detail. But turn that great power of observation inwards and suddenly the super power becomes a super liability. We do not know how to introspect. In today’s world, that is a severe handicap. As the saying goes, “Finding fault in others is one’s greatest fault.” Let me give you a few examples to support this curious case of ‘selective blindness’.

While winter has passed and spring is upon us, we cannot forget the havoc it wrecked on our electric supply. The supply worsened, people protested and life moved on. You can be sure that the same vicious circle will occur next year and the year after that. But is it solely the government’s responsibility to provide uninterrupted power supply, come what may? Don’t we have any religious, moral or civic obligation to not indulge in electricity theft? The idea of hooking is so ingrained into our social fabric that nobody dares to call it what it actually is; Theft, plain and simple. Hooking in Kashmir is one thing that transcends all social barriers-poverty, social status and culture. How can we begin to justify theft even if we refer to it by a different name? A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet. Or, in this case, disgusting. 

The traffic police gets a lot of flak for their gross mismanagement of traffic as well as their tendency to worry more about their pockets than any actual violations. Recently, they have started punishing errant drivers who do not wear seat belts or helmets. Let that sink in for a moment-seat belts and helmets! How foolish does a person have to be to not wear the one thing that could well mean the difference between life and death? Honourable mention must be made of the thousands of drivers on our roads whose aim in life is to reach their destinations a few seconds earlier by playing with their own lives and the lives of others day in and day out. Every road is a new challenge and every driver is a new challenger to the coveted throne of driving maniac.

The racism we Kashmiris exhibit is unreal. Everyone south of the Jawahar tunnel is a Bihari, except Punjabis of course. We expect others to treat us equally but are not ready to accord the same courtesy to them. Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members. Let’s not even get into the city versus village debate because it only serves to strengthen my conviction that we are bigoted and narrow-minded.

Recently, Srinagar was named as one of the dirtiest cities in India. The public lost no time in vilifying the government for its lackadaisical approach towards cleanliness. This vilification conveniently masks the fact that Kashmiris have no sense of civic duty with regards to garbage disposal. Every place is a dustbin and every location is a dumping site. This kind of civic sense is instilled from childhood itself, which begs the question that why are we not inculcating basic good habits among our children? Perhaps we ourselves don’t feel obligated to follow the rules of a civilised society so how can we preach what we do not even practice?

The increase in incidents of violence against women as well as eve teasing strikes at the core of all that is rotten within our society. In the name of honour, we allow our women to be silent sufferers of this despicable crime. Is it not our responsibility as members of the society to safeguard our women against eve teasing? Do we not have an obligation to instill respect for women as well as elders in our children? Burying our heads in sand doesn’t make the problem go away, it represents the coward’s way out of dealing with sensitive issues. 

We are very fond of blaming the government for everything that is wrong in our lives. But let me point out the obvious fallacy in that argument. Who elects the government? Don’t we vote for the same incapable people every time? “Every nation has the government it deserves”. If that’s true, it goes a long way in showing us who we truly are and that is really worrying. 

My intention in writing this article was not to belittle or berate. I wanted to open our eyes to our own short comings. It is very easy to blame others for our problems, it is much harder to accept our imperfections and work on them. If we truly want to develop and grow as an individual as well as a collective entity, we need to focus on solving our own problems first. We are only as strong as our weakest link. Let’s focus on making that weakness disappear!

 

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